This month marks seven years since the publication of my first book, Family History for Kids. I wrote the book with my own children in mind. Since 2007, my children (now in primary key stage 2) have enjoyed interviewing their grandparents, visiting old streets and homes of their forebears, and placing school history lessons in the context of their ancestors’ lives. I have enjoyed sharing my passion for family history with them, and am proud of their deepening understanding of the past. One of the joys of family history is that there is always something new (or old!) to explore. None of us will ever know everything about our genealogies.
This month, I’m pleased to welcome another guest blogger: Suzie Kolber. In the post below, Suzie writes about a project she has set up to help children explore their families’ pasts. It’s never too early to begin. With the help of older families, websites and books, hopefully today’s children can grow up strong in the knowledge of their ancestors.
Helping Kids Learn Their Family History
I have created a fun project for families is to study family history. It is a project that parents can do with their kids, no matter how young they are. It makes an interesting learning experience and can even turn into a gift for a grandparent or other relative.
The first thing to do is to decide how you will organize the information you collect. Since most kids are visually focused, a family tree template can be helpful. This is a great way to organize names and dates for easy access and to keep things from getting confusing.
Choose a template that works for the age of the children you are working with. Young kids need a basic template that only contains basic information such as names. It can even be a good idea to select one that provides room for pictures. If you don’t have photos, you can have the kids draw pictures. This is an especially fun idea if the family tree will be given as a gift.
Choose a Starting Point
For the very young, you may want to stick with an actual tree as your template. Choose a three-generation wide or tall tree to keep things simple. You can decide if you want the child to be the beginning point and include his or her parents and grandparents or if you want to begin with a different generation. For the littlest kids, it is best to start with them to help them understand about genealogy. For kids that are slightly older, it is easy enough to begin with yourself or your parents.
As kids get older, they are able to do more research and can go back farther into their history. In this case, you may want to make the oldest generation the starting point. Write down a grandparent’s or great-grandparent’s name at the bottom of the tree. Have the child talk to the living relative and ask the person about their parents and grandparents. Write that information in on the family tree template.
For kids just getting started in genealogy, a three-generation family tree template is the ideal choice. It is easy enough to find that information without being too overwhelming. You can decide ahead of time how much information you will try to collect on each person before moving on.
As your kids get older or learn more about researching family history, you can move onto more complex family trees. For instance, a four or five-generation family tree may be a good choice. You may also want to continue with the three-generation template but branch out in a different area.
No matter which family tree template you choose, make sure it is visually pleasing for the kids to work with and easy to understand. Some kids will gravitate towards templates that look like actual trees while others may prefer a different format. The right template will make studying family history more fun and easier to understand for even the very young.
Suzie Kolber created Obituaries Help Free Printable Blank Family Trees to be the complete online resource for “do it yourself” genealogy projects. The site holds the largest offering of family tree templates online. The site is a not for profit website dedicated to offering free resources for those that are trying to trace their family history.